by John Jansen
Former Planned Parenthood staffer Linda Couri tels her story at TeenSpeak [Photo by Sam Scheidler]
“Awesome!”—”Really and truly a great experience!”—”I loved it!”—These sum up the reaction of the 140 teens and adults who attended TeenSpeak 2011 on January 29—the largest crowd we’ve ever had at a TeenSpeak conference!
The day began with a fascinating talk by former Planned Parenthood counselor Linda Couri entitled “The Choice Driven Life.” With her unique perspective as a former abortion industry insider, Linda shared how she first got involved with Planned Parenthood out of a well-intentioned sense of compassion for women, but one that she later realized was deeply misguided. Now completely pro-life, Linda has come back to the Catholic faith, and works with Project Rachel, the Church’s post-abortion ministry.
Ex-Planned Parenthood Staffer Enlightens
The audience loved Linda’s talk. Chloe Smith, a senior at Glenbard East High School, commented that it was “so interesting being able to hear about what goes on in the head of someone who worked at Planned Parenthood.” Sadie, a sophomore at St. Francis High School in Wheaton, said, “She was so honest and humble. I admire her courage in talking to us.”
After lunch, clips were shown of the recent MTV special on abortion, No Easy Decision. But as I discussed with the teens, the program ultimately failed in its attempt to put a happy face on abortion.
Teens Compete over Button Designs
Next, the League’s Matt Yonke gave a short talk on “Pushing the Right Buttons” about what makes a good pro-life button. This was followed by a Pro-Life Button Workshop. Attendees were divided into 20 groups, and each group was given two circle templates, a pencil, a set of markers, and 40 minutes to create their own pro-life button design. To ramp up the competition, teams were told that the winning design would be professionally produced by ChristianShirts.net, and given out to attendees at the 2012 TeenSpeak conference. Competition was stiff, but in the end the judges selected an attention-getting design by Jamie Ascenzo, Daniel Lyter, Nathan Ptak, Kevin Hamilton, and Billy Cheely.
Finally, the TeenSpeak Essay Contest winners were announced: Second place went to Joey Pontarelli of Spring Grove, and First Place to Victoria Holmen of Wheaton.
I was thrilled so many teens gave positive feedback on the conference, and said they’re really looking forward to next year. So am I!
by John Jansen
John speaks at the Omaha teen pro-life conference [Photo by Valerie Conzett]
I was privileged to be invited to give a series of talks on March 18 at the Archdiocese of Omaha’s pro-life teen conference held at V. J. and Angela Skutt High School in Omaha. The Archdiocese’s Respect Life Apostolate organized the event, which served as a reunion for students who attended the Archdiocese’s March for Life pilgrimage in January, and encouraged them to ramp up their pro-life involvement. Thus the Apostolate selected “The Next Step” as a fitting theme for this conference.
My first talk was titled “Making the Case for Life,” which dovetails with the League’s Sharing the Pro-Life Message handbook, copies of which were given to everyone present. The talk was well received, as evidenced by student Clare Ellis, who commented, “This talk helped me as well as others in understanding better how to talk to people that are pro-choice and have a better discussion.” After dinner, I spoke on how to start a pro-life club using the Generations for Life Pro-Life Curriculum.
This was followed by a Pro-Life Protest Sign Workshop, with a presentation on effective, well made protest signs—including examples of ineffective signs—and tips on what makes them work. The teens were then divided into groups; given posterboard, markers, and a specific protest scenario (for example, “A benefit is being held in Omaha to raise money for Planned Parenthood”); and tasked with creating a sign that could be used to picket the event.
I was impressed with the effort the groups put into their signs, and many teens commented that they not only enjoyed the workshop, but found it instructive. Student Hayley Wiegand commented, “Everyone loves making signs, and now we know how to make strong and impactful signs about an issue that matters.”
After the workshop, the conference concluded with a concert by Social Contradiction, a talented Catholic Praise and Worship band led by University of Nebraska student Sean Carney, whose father Don Carney has produced several popular League video projects.
By all accounts, the conference was a great success, and I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of it!
by John Jansen
The spring semester 2011 has brought with it many opportunities to share the pro-life and chastity message with teens and to broaden the scope of GFL’s youth outreach efforts.
On January 15, I was invited by the San Antonio Coalition for Life to speak at their second annual teen conference, which I had also addressed in 2010. I gave two talks, “Making the Case for Life” and “How to Start a Pro-Life Club.”
Both talks were well received, and after the conference, I was able to offer some tips to a student from Ronald Reagan High School in San Antonio, who said that she had been having some difficulty getting her pro-life club off the ground. I’m happy to report that the club is now up and running.
A few days after getting back from the 2011 March for Life in Washington, DC, I had to get back on a plane to head to Albuquerque for the annual meeting of the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, at which Generations for Life was voted in as a collaborating member.
This is a tremendous honor, since GFL is the first youth organization focused primarily on the pro-life cause that has been accepted as a collaborating member of the Federation.
I gave chastity talks on February 24 to eighth graders at Huron Valley Catholic School in Ypsilanti, Michigan, and on March 20 to the Confirmation class at St. Francis de Sales Parish in Lake Zurich. These talks were both well received by the students, and I was grateful for the positive feedback I received from parents.
On February 28, I gave my “Pro-Life 101” talk to the Human Development classes at Proviso West High School in Hillside, Illinois for the seventh consecutive year. Many students offered positive comments on the evaluation forms I distributed afterwards.
Please keep the work of Generations for Life in your prayers as we continue to receive such great opportunities to share the pro-life message.